Columnist Mazzuca is off base in his denunciations of educators (letters)
This is in reply to the recent column by Butch Mazzuca. Most of the time Mr. Mazzuca’s remarks are of a political nature that appeal to the Republican voter. This column is no exception. The main thrust of Mazzuca’s column is that the great majority of educators are liberals, their organizations give money to liberal causes, and that these notions could rub off on young and impressionable students. It’s a common concern of the right.
I have two major objections to Mazzuca’s views. The first of these is his paranoia regarding educators, particularly liberal college professors. The second concerns the goal of higher education. I’m not going to address the former concern, except to say that it is a chilling thing. What are we supposed to do, purge the faculties, or discourage the children of conservatives from attending the world’s finest collection of colleges and universities? I know someone who is actually discouraging their daughter from attending any college at all.
My second objection concerns the goal of a college education. If values are defined as the unshakable foundations of an individual’s outlook on life, e.g., integrity, belief in individual responsibility and accountability, religious beliefs, nobility of work, love of your fellow man, patriotism, etc., then I believe these are firstly and mostly learned at home, as a child (Mazzuca and I may be together here).
Then, if a young person is fortunate enough to attend a good college or university, then it is the most important mission of that institution to teach a person to think, including critical thinking. Obviously, it’s also important to gain various knowledge, both new and old. Then, on the journey through life, one’s values will naturally evolve, little by little. The hope is that this evolution is guided by widening knowledge and independent, critical thinking. A college education is not for everyone, but it does greatly assist the process just described. At a minimum, wide reading of diverse literature, historical and current, is needed. Abe Lincoln (hmmm, a Republican) was able to do this. Critical thinking, for one thing, will help with sorting out fake news from the real thing.
Therefore, higher education doesn’t so much instill values as present the opportunity for students to better figure them out for themselves. I would also add that a college education results not only in exposure to unanticipated career paths and more and better-paid job options, but also in providing the tools to lead a fuller life in every way, including more enjoyment from the arts, humanities, sciences, other human achievements and greater personal development.